The Corner

Politics & Policy

For Many Progressives, the Democratic House Is a Disappointment

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks on Capitol Hill, March 27, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The conventional wisdom is that House speaker Nancy Pelosi is beset by an angry, arguably unhinged progressive caucus who has wildly unrealistic expectations, no patience for the legislative process, and no sense of the political reality in those purple districts they won in 2018. And there’s a lot of truth in that, but it’s not hard to see why progressives are growing so irritated.

If you’re a progressive, what has Democratic control of the House gotten you? Almost all of the legislation passed by the Democratic majority dies in the Senate; few if any Senate Republicans feel any pressure to compromise. House lawmakers have to settle for hearings and introduced legislation to “lay the groundwork” for future passage of big ideas like the Green New Deal.

The new stopgap spending bill that House Democratic leaders negotiated extends the new farm bailout funds, giving the Trump administration more of what it wants. The stopgap funding bill will also maintain the status quo for Trump’s border policies, allowing the administration to shift billions of dollars from hundreds of military training programs, bases, and schools to his border projects.

Jerry Nadler says an impeachment of Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh isn’t going to happen, because his committee is too occupied and focused to impeach the president. (Assuming either was possible, would you rather remove a guy who could be out on January 20, 2021, or a guy who will be one of nine justices for probably the next three decades?)

Pelosi is not only opposed to an effort to impeach the president, she’s huffily insisting to reporters that “I’m not answering any more questions about a possible inquiry, investigation, and the rest.”

The House-passed universal background check legislation will not be part of any deal on gun legislation, assuming any deal is reached.

Progressives were told that control of the House meant investigating every nook and cranny of this administration. The Trump administration ignores subpoenas, refuses to turn over documents, claim executive privilege, order staffers not to testify, and fight out the subpoenas in court. House legislators probably won’t even be able to get access to Trump’s tax returns before the 2020 election.

To many progressives, Democratic control of the House has been a colossal disappointment. They’re being told that control of the House only gives them minimal leverage, and that their preferred party needs the Senate and the presidency to really shape national policy and enact priorities. Give them more wins on Election Day, and then those goals will be achieved.

Somewhere, a lonely Tea Party activist is whispering, “watch them carefully, they said the same thing to me.”

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